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Keyword: kevin kamenetz

Photo of BCVFA 2016 check presentation.Baltimore County's volunteer firefighters will receive about $8.1 million in county aid during the next year to assist with the cost of preventative maintenance, fuel, utilities and peak demand operational expenses.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz presented a ceremonial check at the September 17 annual meeting of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen's Association (BCVFA).

Baltimore County has a joint fire service that includes 25 career stations and 32 volunteer fire, rescue and EMS companies, as well as two volunteer-run canteen companies that supply food and drink to responders during strenuous incidents.

The volunteer companies are independent corporations that raise most of the money needed for their operations through carnivals, bingo, fundraising drives and other activities. In addition, each year Baltimore County provides millions of dollars in support to the volunteers.

This year, the County enhanced its commitment to the volunteers. A letter from County Executive Kamenetz to volunteer companies, sent last spring, agreed to cover all approved BCVFA member expenses.

The $8.1 million awarded this year includes $2.3 million paid out over the course of the year to the 21 companies that provide medic service. This represents an increase of about $350,000 over last year.

New BCVFA Officers

The meeting also saw the election of new officers for 2016-2017. They are:

President: Glenn Resnick
Senior Vice President: Craig Coleman
Vice President, Finance: James Cahn
Vice President, Operations: Tom Ludwig
Vice President, Administration: Kathy Walker
Secretary: Robert Frank
Treasurer: William Kern
Financial Secretary: Donna Kern
Chaplain: Rev. Timothy Feaser

District Representatives

Eastern A: William Pearson
Eastern B: John Alban, III
Northern A: Larry Gribble
Northern B: Open
Western A: Doug Brinkley
Western B: Jeff Wickline

The Baltimore County Police Department's body-worn camera program is set to begin Wednesday, July 6.

The first 10 cameras will be deployed that day to one officer in each of the county's 10 precincts. After that, BCoPD will train 10 officers a week for 15 weeks, until 150 cameras are deployed. These 150 cameras will be distributed throughout the 10 precincts and in other units where the Chief of Police has deemed camera use appropriate. This comprises the first phase of BCoPD's body camera initiative.

The second and final phase of the program, involving 1,285 cameras, is scheduled to begin in July 2017. The program will be fully phased in by December 2018. When complete, 1,435 of the county's 1,900 police officers will wear cameras.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Chief Jim Johnson, along with Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, conducted a press briefing this afternoon at the Public Safety Building in Towson providing details about how the cameras will be used, how footage will be managed, limitations of BWCs and the anticipated benefits.
"We're investing in this program for one reason," Kamenetz said. "We believe it will improve public safety by enhancing transparency, by reducing complaints against officers, by improving behavior of all parties involved in police activity and by making prosecutions more effective and efficient."

Regarding prosecutions, Shellenberger said footage from citizen-operated and surveillance cameras already plays an important role in prosecutions; BWC footage – which shows police activity from the officer's perspective – promises to be another valuable prosecutorial tool.

Use Policy

At today's briefing, Chief Johnson highlighted the most important components of the body camera Use Policy.

"My biggest concern was the potential for the cameras to strip officers of their autonomy," Johnson said, turning officers into robotic enforcers of the law. "This policy is specifically designed to preserve the autonomy and discretion of the police officer."

Key points in the Use Policy:

  • Officers assigned body cameras will activate them as soon as possible unless it is unsafe, impractical or impossible to do so.
  • Officers have discretion to activate the camera during any legitimate law enforcement activity if they believe recording may be appropriate. They have discretion to de-activate the camera in places or situations where there’s a heightened expectation of privacy (e.g., locker rooms or rest rooms). They also have the discretion to de-activate in order to secure statements from witnesses and victims.
  • Officers will notify people as soon as possible that they are being recorded unless it’s unsafe, impractical or impossible to do so. Civilians cannot choose whether or not they are recorded.
  • Retention periods for footage depend on the type of incident. For the least serious incidents, the retention period is 18 months. For the most serious felonies, the footage is kept permanently.
  • BWC footage is a public record subject to release under the Maryland Public Information Act and other relevant laws to the public, including media. Baltimore County will treat requests for footage the same as requests for any other police record. The same exceptions apply. Footage of incidents in which there is a compelling public interest may be posted to official Police Department platforms.

Johnson, who has been a law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, called development of a body-worn camera program "the most challenging project I've ever been involved with. Cameras are part of our world. It's the right time for Baltimore County Police to develop consistent policies, procedures and practices for the use of cameras as a tool to enhance public safety. I'm confident our program will accomplish that."

Program Cost

An eight-year, $12.5 million contract with Taser International, Inc. includes purchase of the Axon Flex camera (BCoPD offers officers a choice of camera mounts), maintenance, unlimited data storage, licenses and other expenses. These costs will be paid with revenue from the County's speed camera program.

When fully implemented in FY2019, the ongoing annual cost of operating the program will be an estimated $1.6 million. This includes 19 additional, full-time people needed to run the program. The County's speed camera program will cover all but a small portion of these annual costs. The remainder will be covered by the Office of Information Technology and the State's Attorney's Office.

Baltimore County’s Police Department body-worn camera program begins next week as the first cameras are deployed to field officers. A press briefing on details of the program, including BCoPD’s Use Policy and public records policy for BWC footage, is scheduled this Thursday,  June 30, 1 p.m., at the Public Safety Building, 700 E. Joppa Rd., Towson.

Media representatives will report to Security in the PSB lobby; they will be escorted to the briefing room.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Police Chief Jim Johnson and State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger will participate. The briefing will include demonstrations of the body cameras and samples of BWC footage.


Revised September 27, 2016